The 5 Love Languages (For Your Dog)
Gary Chapman’s popular book, The Five Love Languages, explains that in a romantic relationship there are five different ways to show your significant partner that they matter, that they are loved. These five “love languages” show your partner that they are important, they are seen, and that they are respected.
The five love languages are:
Acts of Service – cleaning, making dinner, folding laundry, etc.
Gifts – presents, cards, surprises
Words of Affirmation – telling your spouse that you love them, that they are amazing, being verbally supportive.
Touch – physical contact, cuddling, hand holding, not always sexual
Quality Time – romantic dinners, getaways, time spent together without distractions
Chapman explains that the by nature we show our significant other the love language that is most appealing to us – not our partner. So, if your love language is gifts, then you naturally want to give your partner gifts. If your love language is acts of service, then you naturally clean the kitchen to show your partner you love them.
While most of us enjoy receiving all of these love languages to some degree, each of us also has a primary love language. You can take this test to see what your primary love language is. (Chapman states that “touch” is the most common primary love language for men.)
I Didn’t Know My Love Language
I thought my love language was gifts. I love getting presents. However, after reading the book and taking the test, I discovered that my love language is acts of service.
So, in my relationships, I spend time cleaning and doing things as a way to show my love. That only is effective IF the person I am in a relationship with ALSO has acts of service as their primary love language.
Understanding this, it is clear to see that you have to know what your significant other’s love language is. It is more important than knowing what yours is.
After I read The 5 Love Languages, I realized these same principles can, and are, used to train your dog. It is likely that you don’t know your dog’s primary love language. I am going to show you how to determine your dog’s primary love language and how to utilize this new information to build a better relationship with your dog.
Let’s explore the five love languages of your dog and how you can determine your dog’s love language and use that to have a better relationship with your furry friend.
The 5 Love Languages of Your Dog
Acts of Service – taking your dog outside, giving them access to new areas, animals, or people.
Gifts – food and toys
Words of Affirmation – verbal praise, the word “good”
Touch – Petting, grooming, scratching,
Quality Time – cuddling, walks, training sessions
How to Determine Your Dog’s Primary Love Language
Have you ever met that person who has some awful sweater vest on their dog and they tell you, “Fifi just absolutely adores her sweater vest!” and then you look at Fifi and Fifi clearly does not love her sweater vest?
This is why you need to understand your dog’s most reinforcing love language or their primary love language. Don’t assume you know what they like. Find out.
It is usually very easy to determine your dog’s love language. Remember, your dog should find all of these “languages” rewarding, but there is usually one that your dog will find most rewarding.
Gifts is most likely your dog’s primary love language. Food has intrinsic value to all animals and thus is incredibly reinforcing. After that, most dog’s will opt for a toy if food is not available. However, there are plenty of dogs who prefer verbal praise, touch, or going for a walk above food and toys.
The quickest way to determine your dog’s primary love language is to observe your dog’s reaction when presented with each love language.
Acts of Service:
Take your dog outside. Do they seem excited or do they seem to get bored quickly and want to go back inside?
Invite them up on the bed. Is that a special occasion for them or would they rather be down on the ground?
Bring a friend’s dog over. Is your dog excited for his new play partner or is he minding his own business?
DOG TRAINING TIP: If at any time your dog chooses a different love language, take note! For example, if you take your dog outside and after a few minutes your dog runs inside and grabs a toy, that is most likely an indication that toys or “gifts” is a higher value love language than acts of service (going outside).
Give your dog food. Does he get excited? Or is this an expected, boring part of his day?
Give your dog a toy. Does he light up? Or is he more interested in you petting him?
DOG TRAINING TIP: Remember, not all gifts are created equal. Your dog may love to play tug with a rope, but have no interest in the rope if there isn’t someone to play with. This means that quality time with gifts could be your dog’s primary love language.
I mean, I love spending quality time watching TV with my significant other. But I love getting my foot rubbed (touch/acts of service) and being told I’m amazing (words of affirmation) while we watch TV (quality time) way more! 😉 ha!
Feel free to combine any of the love languages that your dog may find even more reinforcing!
Words of Affirmation:
ATTENTION: Most dogs do NOT find verbal praise rewarding. People make the wrong assumption that their dog understands the word “good,” “good boy,” “yes,” etc. Your dog only understands what you’ve trained your dog to understand. This includes training you’ve consciously done with your dog, and training you’ve unconsciously done.
Here is a short and easy article on how to train your dog to understand what the word “good” means.
Tell your dog good. Does he look at you? Does he wag is tail? Does his energy go up?
When you talk to your dog, does your dog seem engaged or oblivious?
Words of affirmation to your pup, only work if they’ve been trained to mean something. And words are usually only found reinforcing because they preceded something great happening.
For example, you say the word “good” and your dog gets a treat. You say, “wanna go outside” and then you take your dog outside. These words ARE rewarding for your dog to hear – because they have been paired with a “gift” or “act of service” that is also reinforcing.
Unlike verbal praise, touch is innately reinforcing to some animals while others must be conditioned to find touch rewarding.
If your dog is offering his head for petting, it is usually a clear sign that your dog finds touch rewarding.
If your dog has a toy in his mouth and you go to pet him and he turns away, that’s usually a sign that the toy, or play with the toy, is more reinforcing.
DOG TRAINING TIP: To start training your dog to find touch reinforcing, feed your dog in one hand while you pet your dog in the other. Over time, your dog will start to pair touch with food and thus touch becomes a rewarding experience. Imagine if I touched your head and then gave you $20 and I did this multiple times a day. All of the sudden the feeling of me touching your head would ignite positive feelings from you because you usually get $20 each time that happens! Okay, enough about me paying you to touch your head. That’s weird.
I cannot stress the importance of quality time enough. After exercise, quality time is the thing not enough dogs are getting.
It’s so easy to start having quality time with your dog. On your walks, leave your phone at home, make eye contact with your dog, walk for a few seconds and then run for 10 seconds. Keep things novel, interesting, unique. Talk with your dog. Laugh with your dog. I know it all sounds silly, but this quality time will make your dog view you in such a new, enlightening way.
The quickest and easiest way to have quality time with your dog is to do a training session. Teaching your dog something new is the quickest way to bond with your dog and it utilizes other love languages, usually gifts!
People focus too much on getting their dog to stop barking or training them not run into the street. However, it is also important to train your dog a silly behavior, like weaving through your legs, to strengthen the relationship you have with your dog, keep them mentally enriched, and enjoy that quality time.
Why did you get a dog in the first place? It wasn’t because you wanted to be stressed out about separation anxiety. It was because you wanted to enjoy time with your dog. So, do it. Work in quality time with your dog.
I can tell you that proper training sessions that ONLY use positive reinforcement are reinforcing to your dog. While it may not be their primary love language, it is a must for a well-rounded pup.
How to Utilize Your Dog’s Primary Love Language
Now that you understand what your dog finds most rewarding – don’t just use it – utilize it.
The difference between using a love language and utilizing a love language is the intention behind the action.
For example, suppose a dog owner discovers that their dog loves a specific treat. Because they know their dog loves this treat, they give them the treat throughout the day. If the dog walks into the kitchen, they get a treat. If the owner sees the treat in the treat jar they will randomly give their dog a treat.
The intention of randomly giving your dog a treat is to make YOU feel like you’re a good dog owner. However, the goal here is for you to actually be a good dog owner and for your dog to reap the benefits.
So, we must shift your intention.
Instead of randomly giving your dog treats, find desirable behavior to reward.
Is your dog not barking when your Amazon package arrived? Perfect! Give them a treat!
Is your dog quietly sitting on their dog bed while you make dinner? Yes! Give them a treat!
Is your dog jumping on guests when they come over? Uh-oh. Don’t give them a treat. Instead, give the treat to your guest and as soon as your dog stops jumping, have your guest say “good” and give them the treat for being on all fours.
Now your intention behind giving the treats is to get more desirable behavior from your dog and less undesirable behavior.
This shows your dog exactly what he needs to be doing and he’s getting rewarded for doing it! Your dog will love how clear the new rules in the house are and he will be getting his primary love language for his most desirable behavior. Everyone is winning.
Now you ARE a good dog owner, instead of only feeling like one, and your dog is living a happier life. 🙂